Union spat hits film takings

Pinewood Shepperton reported lower half-year film revenues today despite major productions including Ridley Scott’s new 'Robin Hood' adventure.

Pinewood Shepperton reported lower half-year film revenues today despite major productions including Ridley Scott’s new 'Robin Hood' adventure.

The studios business, based in Buckinghamshire in England, said the continued impact of a damaging battle between US studios and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) hit film sales, with projects caught in a logjam.

Film revenues fell to £11.8m (€13.5m) in the six months to June 30, from £13m (€15m) last year as the wrangle over pay and conditions took its toll, although Pinewood said the spat had come to an end.

As well as the Russell Crowe-led Robin Hood production, other major films in the period included werewolf feature 'The Wolfman', Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s 'Cemetery Junction', 'Gulliver’s Travels' with Jack Black and epic 'Clash of the Titans'.

Pinewood noted that economic pressures had made it more difficult to access financing and meaning delays in producers starting projects.

But it said the UK’s competitive film tax regime meant that the country was “still an attractive option” for international producers.

“The mass appeal of film in uncertain economic times has not diminished,” it added.

Pinewood continued to strengthen its post-production division in the period and said it had seen its reputation grow as a result of award-wining work on 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

During the period the division hosted productions including 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' and Ken Loach’s 'Looking for Eric'.

Overall group revenues were £20.3m (€23.3m) from £21.7m (€24.9m) last year.

Meanwhile profits were down to £1.7m (€1.9m), from £3.8m (€4.3m) last year, as the group paid out on increased financing costs as its debt widened to £42.4m (€48.6m) from £36.4m (€41.7m) a year earlier.

Pinewood’s television arm saw sales at £5.5 million in the first six months of the year, compared with £5.8m (€6.6m) last year, as it attracted repeat business from The Weakest Link and Harry Hill’s TV Burp.

It said a severe downturn in TV advertising had had some impact on margins although this was mitigated with tight cost controls.

Among the new television productions in the half year were Britain’s Best Dish for ITV and Wogan’s Total Recall for Channel 4.

Pinewood chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said: “The past six months have shown the resilience of our business against a backdrop of wider industry and economic pressures.

“Looking forward, film revenues for the remainder of the year will depend, as ever, on the timing of new film starts in the latter part of the second half.

“Television revenues are expected to be stable, despite broadcasters’ programming cuts.”

He said the firm’s media park arm, which comprises of 350 businesses offering services to the film and television industry, increased revenues to £3m (€3.4m) from £2.9m (€3.3m) last year.

Pinewood said it paid out £4 million in the first six months relating to its Project Pinewood plans.

The firm submitted a planning application in June for a new live-in film set representing streets including New York, Paris and Venice.

The project is described as “a long term scheme of national significance to create a living and working community for the creative industries on green belt land”.

As part of the scheme Pinewood said it intends to create Europe’s first Screen Craft Academy “to help inspire young students to continue their education for the creative industries”.

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